Labral Tears of the Shoulder

Understanding and Treating Shoulder Labral Tears

A shoulder labral tear is an injury to the ring of cartilage, or labrum, that surrounds the shoulder joint socket. This cartilage serves as a cushion and stabilizes the shoulder by securing the arm bone in the socket. A tear in this area can lead to instability, reduced mobility, and pain, potentially causing joint damage and discomfort over time. Understanding labral tears and following your recommended treatments is crucial for overcoming the limitations of this injury. Learn more about recognizing labral tears and the recommended treatments.

What are Shoulder Labral Tears?

Shoulder labral tears are common injuries that occur either from physical activity or structural issues in the shoulder. These tears can compromise the stability of the shoulder joint, affecting mobility and performance.

Types of Shoulder Labral Tears

SLAP Tears (Superior Labrum from Anterior to Posterior)

This type involves the top (superior) part of the labrum and typically affects the area where the biceps tendon attaches.

Bankart Lesions

These are commonly associated with shoulder dislocations and affect the labrum’s lower (inferior) part.

Posterior Labral Tears

These occur at the back of the labrum and are less common than the anterior or superior types.

Anterior Labral Tears

These occur at the front of the shoulder joint and are common.

What Does a Labral Tear Mean for Me?

A labral tear in the shoulder suggests either gradual deterioration or a sudden injury to the joint. Each tear can affect your shoulder stability and mobility differently.

Symptoms of a Labral Tear

  • Pain in the shoulder or arm
  • Sensations of locking, catching, or clicking in the shoulder
  • Stiffness and limited movement

Causes of Labral Tears


Immediate injury from sports or accidents can cause a labral tear.

Structural Issues

Structural issues due to genetics can stress the labrum.

Repetitive Motions

Continuous use of the shoulder without proper conditioning can cause tears.

Diagnosing a Labral Tear

It’s essential to see a healthcare provider for a complete diagnosis, involving physical exams and possibly imaging, to accurately diagnose a shoulder labral tear and rule out other causes of pain.

Treatment for Labral Tears

Treatment may involve physical therapy to restore function and alleviate pain or surgery to repair the labrum if less invasive methods are insufficient. While repairing the labrum through surgery, your surgeon may remove frayed regions, stitch the tear, or use other tissues to replace the missing portion of the labrum.

Why Choose Physical Therapy

During your treatment, your doctor may encourage you to receive physical therapy to restore your shoulder strength and range of motion. During physical therapy, your specialist uses progressive overload to increase activity levels. Physical therapy can enhance joint strength and flexibility, helping prevent future injuries by better preparing the body for functional activities.

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